June 23, 2024

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United Airlines pitches net-zero plans at Mountain Travel Symposium: Travel Weekly

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VAIL, Colo. — United Airlines has taken its green messaging to one of North America’s top ski industry conferences.

Speaking Wednesday at the Mountain Travel Symposium in Vail, Brian Roth, the United’s director of sales in Denver, told attendees about the airline’s ambitious pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 without the use carbon offsets. While the airline industry as a whole has committed to reaching net-zero by 2050 with the aid of offsets, United’s no-offset pledge is unique among carriers, Roth explained.

“Sustainability is key to our continued existence at United,” said Roth.

Related Mountain Travel Symposium news: Destinations are using geolocation data to manage tourism growth

Like other carriers, United’s largest sustainability focus is on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which reduces lifespan greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 80% compared to kerosene-based jet fuel. SAF is already a realized technology, but production scale is tiny. To support a production ramp-up, United is an investor in SAF producers Adler Fuels and Fulcrum BioEnergy, with which it has combined options to purchase up to 2.4 billion gallons of fuel. 

Roth encouraged companies attending the Mountain Travel Symposium to join the carrier’s Eco-Skies Alliance program, under which corporations can contribute to United’s purchase of SAF.

United had more than 60 ski destination routes this winter. Its Denver hub is also an important launching point for ski vacations. 

SAF investment is only one part of United’s broad emissions reduction strategy. The carrier has also partnered with electric aircraft startup Heart Aerospace and electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, startup Archer Aviation and has purchased an equity stake in hydrogen-electric engine developer ZeroAvia, which is working to develop zero-emission engines for regional aircraft. 

In addition, United has invested in carbon-capture startup 1PointFive, which is an Occidental Petroleum subsidiary.

Mountain Travel Symposium is convening in person for the first time in three years. The event is organized by the Meetings Group of Northstar Travel Group (Travel Weekly’s parent company).

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